Word is Bond creates a community for young Black men


Beth Conyers

Matthew Baba, Ja’Mari Etherly, Max Decker and Lakayana Drury do walking tours for Word is Bond in North Portland.

In 2017, Lakayana Drury founded Word is Bond, a Portland-based nonprofit whose mission is to be a resource for Black men between the ages of 15 and 21. Drury’s experiences as a young Black man, growing up without his father and graduating high school with a 2.3 GPA, inspired him to start the nonprofit.

“All of my life experiences led me in the direction of wanting to create an organization that was unapologetically for young Black men to help empower us,” said Drury. 

Drury says the name “Word is Bond” comes from “One Love,” a song by the artist Nas. It signifies a commitment to communication.

“By invoking the name “Word is Bond” you are automatically putting yourself into a position of leadership by virtue of holding to your word,” said Drury. 

Since the start of the nonprofit, the biggest challenge has been fundraising. However, that problem was alleviated after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

“That was a positive and unfortunate outcome,” said Drury. “Positive in a sense that it created funds, unfortunate that a Black man had to be choked out.”

Members of Word is Bond meet once a week and participate in a variety of activities.

Matthew Baba, Lincoln junior, is a member of Word is Bond and has many fond memories such as going camping, doing a ropes course and making his first resume.

“It’s fun to put myself out there and find out what I like to do,” said Baba. “I feel like Word is Bond helps me as a person.”

Baba also feels that Word is Bond is giving opportunities to young Black men that they wouldn’t normally get. 

“In normal school settings we wouldn’t normally get the support that some of our white peers would get and Word is Bond is where the focus is mostly on Black teens and trying to get into a place where they are stable,” said Baba.

The nonprofit also offers a six-week paid internship called “Rising Leaders,” that can be repeated by an individual for three years. The first year is focused on leadership skills, the second on professional internships across the city and the third year interns take a trip to Ghana. This summer will be the first year of the Ghana trip.

During the summer, Word is Bond also hosts workshops with police officers to help build relationships with communication.

“We don’t advocate and we don’t disadvocate [for police], we just create a table for discussion,” said Drury. 

The young men in Word is Bond work with the police officers to write a poetry book as an artistic way to express their experiences.

“We compile all of them into a poetry book that the community can read and hear different perspectives,” said Drury. 

In 2022, Word is Bond published their poetry book, “Picture Me Thriving.” 

“We want peace and justice so we believe / A man’s life lost they let him die / Makes another mom left to cry,” wrote Ted Woldeab, Jesuit High School student in his poem “I’m sorry.”

In the future, Drury hopes to expand Word is Bond to be a national model. 

“We could open a chapter back in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin or D.C. where I was born,” said Drury. “There’s young men that need this program in other places too.”